Washoe, the female chimpanzee whose use of American Sign Language opened the first studies of non-human use of language has died of natural causes at the research institute on the campus of Central Washington University.
Washoe, who was born in Africa about 1965, was thought to be about 42 years old. According to Roger and Deborah Fouts who first introduced Washoe to ASL she died Tuesday night.
The Fouts are co-founders of The Chimpanzee and Human Communications Institute.
Washoe knew an estimated 250 words and taught sign language to three younger chimps.
Primate researcher Jane Goodall, in Roger Fouts' book "Next of Kin," noted the importance of the work with Washoe.
"Roger, through his ongoing conversations with Washoe and her extended family, has opened a window into the cognitive workings of a chimpanzee's mind that adds new dimension to our understanding."